Good business must be a bottom line for football clubs

Thursday, August 14, 2014

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HARD times mean that at some stage a top club such as Tivoli Gardens FC would have contemplated withdrawal from the National Premier League. Jamaican football lovers shouldn't be fooled into thinking Tivoli are the only ones with such thoughts.

It's not by accident that newly promoted clubs invariably fall back after a season or two.

Football is an expensive sport, and the returns for those who make the investment in clubs and infrastructure won't be immediate.

Those with returns on their investment have gained as a result of proper business planning and tight organisation.

Let's be clear: Those clubs which, from time to time, have found themselves in the black haven't done so as a result of prize money, gate receipts and sponsorship. Profits, such as there are, have come from the sale (and loan) of players to clubs in Europe, North America, and even wider afield in Asia.

In the short to medium term, revenue from developing and trading young, talented players is the only way Jamaican football clubs can stay afloat as business entities.

We suspect that is what Mr Edward Seaga was getting at when he floated the idea of nurturing young players as an option for Tivoli Gardens FC.

The sale by Harbour View FC of Mr Ricardo Gardner to Bolton FC for £1 million in 1998 opened the eyes of the Jamaican football fraternity to what was possible. Jamaica was a latecomer in that regard. Clubs in Europe, South America — not least Brazil and Argentina — Central America, and more latterly Africa and Asia, have long profited from the football trade.

Since that landmark transaction involving Mr Gardner, scores of young Jamaicans have gone to clubs abroad. But it seems fair to say that the bonanza which some may have anticipated 16 years ago has not materialised.

The problem is that football in Jamaica remains an amateur sport, run by amateurs with little or no vision or appreciation of the business possibilities.

That's why the effort by the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) to get clubs and local administrators to buy into a professional franchise system is so important. We recognise that the plans so far need to be fleshed out.

Yet it is clear that the situation as now exists with small, under-resourced clubs representing small, equally poor communities cannot be sustained.

Going forward, there will have to be a concerted effort to pool available talent and resources across a much wider scope with potential for return on investment, a constant bottom line.

We think the model provided by current national champions Montego Bay United — which proactively sought to move away from its image as Seba representing just a small corner of Montego Bay — should be useful, at least as a start.




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